What is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

The term Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is a catch all term for Brazilian grappling.  Helio and Carlos Gracie are widely considered to be the founders of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu soon followed from their lead, however; Gracie Jiu-Jitsu represents a teaching method and theory that can differ from some of the different schools of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu even though Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is lumped in with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in that it has it’s roots come from Brazil.    In the beginning when other instructors taught Jiu-Jitsu and they weren’t affiliated with the Gracies they needed a term to call their martial art, thus Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was used as an acceptable alternative.

In today’s environment when we think of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu it’s in a self-defense “street” context of Jiu-Jitsu self-defense and “Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu” as more of the sport and tournament context of the art.  The tournament thinking being that you will face someone your size and belt ranking in a grappling match for a pre-determined amount of time. Gracie Jiu-Jitsu takes the thought that it always assumes that you will fight a bigger stronger opponent with no time limit, typically out in the street where “anything goes” including kicks and punches.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is still widely used interchangeably by many in the Jiu-Jitsu community with little difficulty as Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu are different sides of the same coin.  There is however a significant difference in reality by the goals that each branch is trying to accomplish.

What is Gracie Jiu-Jitsu?

Gracie Jiu-Jitsu was developed by  two men named  Carlos and Helio Gracie.  Helio learned Jiu-Jitsu from his brother Carlos in the early 1920’s.  Carlos taught Jiu-Jitsu from a great Judo and Jiu-Jitsu master from Japan’s Kodokan named Mitsuyo Maeda or also known as  “Count Coma” who was  noted as a prize fighter, Circus performer and a renowned Judo stylist.  Carlos’s and Helio’s father Gastão Gracie asked Maeda if he would teach his eldest son Carlos in the art of Japanese Judo (sport art) and Jiu-Jitsu (battle art).  Carlos passed on the Jiu-Jitsu he learned from Maeda to his brothers including Helio Gracie.  They eventually formed the Gracie Academy in 1925,

Helio was the smallest of all the Gracie children and realized that he was no match for his brother’s stand up techniques. The stand -up techniques and throws his brother showed took more strength than he could muster.     His strategy was to simply forgo the stand- up techniques and traditional judo throws and tackle the opponent to the ground and then start working his technique and then applying joint-locks and chokeholds to defeat the larger opponent.

Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is considered primarily a street fighting system used for a smaller man to defend himself against a bigger stronger opponent in a street fight and not just a grappling contest.  The defense of punches both standing up and on the ground are practiced on a continuous basis.

Helio Gracie’s mantra was that Gracie Jiu-Jitsu always assumes that every opponent will be bigger and stronger and that using athleticism and sheer brute strength will not always have the desired effect.  Instead the practitioner should use angles, exploit the opponent’s weak muscle groups while using the least amount of energy possible in order to defeat the larger opponent.  If defeating the opponent is not possible then simply surviving the “Street Encounter” is considered a worthy outcome.

Helio Gracie’s son Rorion Gracie is arguably considered the person who brought Gracie Jiu-Jitsu to America and then popularized it world-wide through his introduction of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Both Helio and Carlos Gracie are widely regarded as having played a crucial role in the development of what is known today as “Gracie” Jiu-Jitsu.